Regular readers of Drama in the Hood know the story of Paradise Theatre. Priced out of their home by a municipality that didn’t love them enough, Paradise has been a traveling road show for almost a year. They staged three shows in places the GPS couldn’t find, all while looking for a place to land where they could add to the fabric of a community. Now, with the help of a dedicated staff and a hoped-for angel or two, the company MAY have found a home. A rental for now, Dragonfly Theater in the heart of Port Orchard hosted Opening Night for “All Shook Up.”
It was a night of mirth for a company who needs a laugh in the worst way, and an enthusiastic crowd willing to travel to see their favorites at work. We laughed, we sang along to old-time rock and roll favorites and appreciated everything there was to see from the plucky band of brothers and sisters that make up Paradise Theatre.
New homes take some getting used to, and Dragonfly Theater is no exception. “All Shook Up” was put together in less than a week, and the sound kinks are still being ironed out. All shows grow into themselves over time, and this show is a prime example of that theater axiom. That said, right out of the box, this is a show full of talent and occasional excellence. Particularly excellent was Michael Drake as Chad. With leathers and a ducktail worthy of the King himself, Mr. Drake wiggled his hips and crooned his way through Presley’s book of songs. Chad isn’t a one-note role, though, as the part requires deadpan comedy. Michael Drake was probably at his best in those comedic moments. Vocally, he wasn’t at his best early on (perhaps due to difficulty hearing the accompaniment), but after intermission, he found his stride and owned the role.
Stage talent is scattered liberally around this show, but not the least in the gender-bending role of Natalie/Ed. Julia James, in her second Paradise show, is great! In a show full of over-the-top parts, hers is one of nuance and shading. Ms. James scored nicely.
Have you ever seen a show and said, “The leads were great, but there was something about one of the smaller roles that drew my eye, again and again?” That’s Lizzy Kovacs’ Miss Sandra. Her vocalizations showed angst and humor in equal measures, and Ms. Kovacs comedic timing was among the best in the cast. She played Sandra to the hilt! She delivers, “Throw me down and start me like a Chevy,” as well as it has ever been delivered.
Andy Scarvie plays Dennis. Awkward would be the way to describe Dennis and Mr. Scarvie plays the part in perfect tune. His portrayal of Chad’s erstwhile sidekick were subtly excellent, embodied in a role that isn’t very subtle. Mr. Scarvie is a fine young actor and Director Jeff Richards is lucky to have him on-board.
John Hemphill has appeared in two previous Paradise shows and was very good in both. He is equally adept as the loneliest man in town in this show. His Jim Haller is a grieving widower. Does he find true love in the unlikeliest place? You’ll have to come see the show to find out, but his performance was excellent.
Kim Myers does double duty, appearing on stage as Mayor Matilda and as the musical director of the play. Ms. Myers is a valuable utility player on the Paradise team, capable on stage, as well as behind the scenes. Drama in the Hood remembers her fine turn as Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man, and enjoyed her in this show, as well.
We want to recognize two of the younger actors in this show, but for different reasons. They were both very good. Travis Martinez’ community theater career is becoming legendary in its prolificness. In three years, he reports 14 credits! That’s being serious about growth. In this show he gets a chance to play opposite Jaqi Westeren, who played Lorraine very nicely. This marks Ms. Westeren’s stage swan song in the South Sound as she is off to college this fall. We wish her Godspeed and every success and happiness. She’s a good kid, and a fine member of any community theater show.
Deidre Hemphill’s Sylvia travels a bit from the beginning of the show to the end. She is believable at both ends and on the journey between. Good job!
Finally, Rex Davison is an anchor for this company. His role as Sheriff Earl is not a big one, but it provides one of the better surprise moments in the show. Mr. Davison has been busy with Paradise and will continue to be called on by this company. He never fails to provide a quality performance.
The ensemble, made up of Chloe Le Deaux, Anne Lineberry, Maile Olson, and Emily Williams toiled ably in the several dance numbers that make up “All Shook Up.” They smiled more in the second act than they did in the first act. Early on, it appeared that they were working hard, and of course they were. But, that’s the secret to a show such as this one. Fantasy Island’s Mr. Rourke said it best. “Smiles, everyone, smiles.” In both acts.
Drama in the Hood has been beating the drum for our theaters who have needed help. Indeed, theaters who do NOT need help during this era of misaligned priorities should consider themselves blessed. As part of our commitment to South Sound stage excellence we renew our plea on behalf of Paradise Theatre for tangible, financial support. Working hard for you every day. That’s the Paradise way. Join them for “All Shook Up” for a hip-shaking good time, but know you are also supporting a worthy cause.
All Shook Up,” by Joe Dipietro, Paradise Theatre 820 Bay St (upstairs at the Dragonfly Cinema), Port Orchard. Fri-Sat 7:30, Sat 2 pm through May 12. Tickets: paradisetheatre.thundertix.com/events/148321 Info: paradisetheatre.org.